WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa council balks at two years of water rate hikes


The Santa Rosa City Council refused to approve two years’ worth of water and sewer increases Tuesday, saying the city needs to do more to help poor residents cope with some of the highest rates in the region.

Instead of the increases for 2015 and 2016 requested by city staff, the council approved just one year of water and sewer rate hikes, equal to 3.3 percent in the monthly bill for an average family.

waterCouncilmembers said they weren’t willing to approve the requested increases for the second year, equal to 3.4 percent for an average family, until they heard more about the city’s efforts to create a safety net for those struggling to pay their bills.

“I can’t in good conscience take a fundamental essence of life and cost it out of reach,” said Councilwoman Julie Combs.

The decision was a surprise to many. The proposed increases are more modest than the 9 percent increases seen for much of the previous decade, and were approved in October by the city’s Board of Public Utilities.

City staff explained that the higher rates were necessary to build reserves for drought conditions, obtain a better balance between fixed and usage charges, pay for higher costs of energy and regulatory compliance, and to begin self-funding more project to reduce reliance on bond funding.

But several council members said while they respect the hard work of the BPU and city staff, they needed to see progress on programs to help the poor before they could back increases that risked hitting that population hardest.

“I think you need to go back and sharpen your pencil,” Councilman Jake Ours told Utilities Director David Guhin.

Ours told Guhin that he might be convinced to support a second year of increases “if you came back with a plan that allowed us to help the poor users.”

The city has a number of conservation programs already in place, such as the installation of low-flow shower heads and toilets, that can help people lower their water usage and bills, Guhin said.

But he explained that because of Proposition 218, programs to assist the poor cannot be funded with rate revenue. The city is reviewing how other cities operate programs for low-income residents and how they can be funded and managed, but does not yet have a plan in place, Guhin said.

Councilman Gary Wysocky said that while he appreciated the need to build in a cushion for drought conditions, he was struck by how high Santa Rosa’s rates remain compared to other cities.

An average family in Santa Rosa would have a $143.49 per month bill in 2014, the second highest in the region only to Healdsburg, where the same family would pay $164.66.

The same family in Rohnert Park would pay $104.28, nearly 38 percent less than Santa Rosa’s 2014 rate.

The council continued the policy of passing on wholesale water rates from the Sonoma County Water Agency onto ratepayers, which are estimated to translate into 2.2 percent increases in water bills.

But some council members expressed frustration with such increasing and largely uncontrollable costs. Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom said the city needs to find a way to do something about cost increases she characterized as “us being strong-armed by another governmental authority.”

The proposal returns to the council next week for a final vote.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.

5 Responses to “Santa Rosa council balks at two years of water rate hikes”

  1. Geoff Johnson says:

    What really matters here, I think, is that the Council did raise our water/sewer rates — albeit only for next year, rather than the two years the BPU wanted.

    One thing is clear, over time: the less water we use, the more we pay!

    Ultimately, the Council’s water-saving campaigns — and their routine rate increases — are aimed at supporting the excessive future growth in their current General Plan.

  2. James Bennett says:

    Bear: I can produce a post with a page full of documentation that we manipulate the weather.
    Did you think I made up geo-engineering, or the Navy’s High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP)?

    I already provided an extensive Air Force Document on the link.

    Or were you just being a narrow minded Progressive taking a baseless poke at me?

    Yes, our government can “make it rain”.

  3. bear says:

    LOL. Urban Sonoma County has no reliable water supply after 2020. Everyone in government damn well better know this.

    If we want to be fair, we should tier rates by water usage. Use more, pay lots more.

    Or government could make it “rain more?”

  4. Reality Check says:

    For most people, the water bill isn’t the problem. It’s sewer charges.

    The easiest way to reduce bill increases is to defer maintenance, long a policy of SR. This works well for council members who want to be popular, but only at a price of pushing costs onto the next generation. Think pension promises. Politically, it works.

  5. James Bennett says:

    I was there.

    This is a very important subject.

    At first I thought a couple members of Council were actually growing a spine, looking out for our interests a little.

    They were asking for some explanation, some accounting from this unaccountable private concern entrusted with looking after our water. A crucial responsibility that should never be left to a private off shore corporation.

    This is the MO of ICLEI charters. As this off shore NGO is very much about a corporate fascist takeover. Very much about engineering and portraying lack, shortages and scarcity. Especially regarding energy and water.

    Anyway, when it was time to vote they only went for one year. Wow, they’re tuff, that’s showing some leadership. Just more charade, putting on a little show of concern for constituents, as usual.

    Despite my sharp words, I really wish we could be proud of them.

    There are two points I’d like to make:

    1) Since TPTB (globalists) have such a preoccupation with controlling and manipulating the weather.


    Since they spend so much of OUR money on ‘geo-engineering’ and the HAARP Program.

    Why don’t they just make it rain?

    Relative to their much more ambitious manipulations, this would be easy.

    Hell we’ve had this technology for generations.

    2) Wouldn’t common sense suggest that a county like Marin with such a high percentage open space and water sheds/wetlands could provide it’s own water?

    This, along with energy, food, currency, land use will be employed as instruments of our control and their profit.

    Water’s a big deal, and they know it. So do the farmers and ranchers in the Central Valley.

    The biggest bread basket west of the Rockies.

    This is why our founding principals distinctly separated public and private.

    The FED is the biggest example of what happens when you don’t.

    After a hundred years of corrupt debt slavery and the biggest thievery in the history of humanity, a few Washington Patriots and the vast majority of Americans think an audit might be in order.

    However these globalists have a secret that World leaders know…

    OUR gold in Fort Knox is gone.

    Now the tail is wagging the dog, kinda like SCWA at Council Tuesday night.

    Like I’ve said; public private partnership is an oxymoron